In a pastoral counseling class many moons ago a classmate said something to the effect of, “we need anger.” I was intrigued with this novel view, and now I think of fear the same way. We need both for our survival; they tell us something is wrong. Last week my little car was hit by another, bigger car which slowly drove right into mine. I never felt a fear of injury, but that evening I kept track of my reactions to the accident. I found myself angry, tearful, jittery, sleepless, replaying the arc of the car coming toward me, my hand frozen on the gear. Thinking, ‘if only Tink hadn’t needed a second vet visit, if only I was concentrating better, if only…’ I thought of trauma survivors around the world who deal with much worse, and feel a bit of emotional community with them these days. Trauma recovery exercises helped, although my body and mind still remember.
One of my favorite Christmas phrases is the angels’ “Fear not!” to everyone who saw them. Evidently they were a fearsome sight. The decision to ‘fear not’, after the first moments of physical reaction, seems a very advanced one. To not succumb to the body’s survival reactions, to stay and not flee, to actually hear what the angel said, is quite impressive, as I ponder it. Those words, spoken to Middle Eastern young women, old men, and shepherds 2,000 years ago, seem especially courageous these days. They remind me I can be courageous too.
As I think of Apple Farm and its rich history, and what the Farm will become, I recall that we always face a future with many legitimate threats. But ‘fear not!’ seems a hopeful reminder that calming down to hear our angels’ message will enable us to see the potential awaiting us.